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A newly released ranking looks at the states doing the most–and the least–when it comes to cutting emissions, and how they’re incorporating equity into their programs.
For the second year in a row, California leads the country in energy efficiency policies and programs, according to a new report. The Golden State is far from alone in its major efforts to cut emissions and reduce greenhouse gases, but many states are falling behind, and all can do more in these areas to advance equity initiatives.
California is one of the best when it comes to energy codes for buildings, vehicle emissions, and energy efficiency in the utility sector, according to the American Council for an Energy-Efficient Economy, a research nonprofits that develops energy efficiency policies.
Each year, the council ranks all 50 states and Washington, D.C. In this year’s report, published Tuesday, researchers looked at six categories–transportation, building energy efficiency and appliance policies among them. For the first time since the scorecard was initially published 15 years ago, the ranking system looked at how states incorporate equity efforts into programs and policies.
While that expansion contributed to nearly half of states dropping in rank since last year, California maintained its top-tier place.
In addition to a recently-approved rule banning the sale of gas-powered vehicles by 2035, California has programs that aim to get more electric vehicles to low-income and historically disadvantaged consumers, the report said. The state is also working to get heat pumps in more homes, and plans to have half the devices installed in low-income or historically disadvantaged neighborhoods. A new mapping tool helps identify which communities are experiencing the most harmful effects of pollution, which offers decisionmakers guidance determining where to direct resources.
Massachusetts, New York, Vermont and Maine round out the scorecard’s top five.
Top 10 States
3. New York
6. Washington, D.C.
7. Rhode Island (tie)
7. Maryland (tie)
Maine earned the title “most improved state,” jumping 11 places to rank fifth in this year’s report. Harsh New England winters have pushed the state to be the most reliant on fossil fuels, as many homes still use oil for heat, Gov. Janet Mills said in a statement. But Maine officials are aiming to install high-efficiency heat pumps in 115,000 homes and to weatherize 35,000 homes and businesses by 2030. The Pine Tree State also developed an electric vehicle plan that incorporates equity as a key focus, the report said.
While the states that typically rank high on the ACEEE scorecards performed well in terms of equity, 34 states did not earn even half the available points for equity efforts.
Bottom 11 States
41. Alabama (tie)
41. Oklahoma (tie)
43. North Dakota
44. West Virginia (tie)
44. Ohio (tie)
46. Mississippi (tie)
46. Louisiana (tie)
46. South Dakota (tie)
49. Kansas (tie)
49. South Carolina (tie)
South Carolina fell more than any other state, dropping nine places to rank 49th. The demotion can be attributed, in part, to the state allowing industrial, manufacturing and commercial entities to opt out of energy efficiency programs.
There were some common trends among the lowest-ranking states, the report said. Many are being outpaced by other states that are moving quickly to establish and act on emissions-reduction goals. But other reasons for falling behind include not creating equity task forces to ensure inclusivity is a focus in planning programs, and failing to direct resources to build affordable, low-emission housing.
The report offers up strategies to help states achieve better energy efficiency. Those include: focusing on efficiency standards for lighting, appliances and equipment; updating building codes and improving compliance; and working with the private sector to explore different ways to finance energy-efficiency measures.
Molly Bolan is the assistant editor for Route Fifty.
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